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Stranger in the Night

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My worst nightmare was that the two halves of my world would meet.

I’m a doctor. Obviously this takes up most of a man’s time, energy, and focus. Ah, but I get to be a doctor under extenuating circumstances: Captain Geoffrey MacCallan, M.D., Ph.D. (times two) U.S. Army Medical Command, stationed out of the U.S. Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USaMRIID), Fort Detrick, Maryland as a primary contact for the Investigative Branch of the Biological Warfare Defense program.

No, I do not look like Dustin Hoffman.

Basically, it is my job to fly into East Butt-Fuck Egypt with the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or the Pan-American Health Organization to determine if the latest outbreak of anthrax did, in fact, come from cattle. Most of the time it does.

Occasionally, my days consist of twelve hour-plus shifts working in the Level Four lab processing samples, reading surveillance reports, conferencing with other doctors, and, if God is very nice to me, working on my research projects.

Those are slow days.

Most of my days, I’m working regular outbreaks. Then it’s thirty-six hour shifts watching people die in ways even I don’t like to think about. It’s six weeks in some disease-infested hell-hole trying to put a noose on the plague of the month with four different serotypes while trying to find out where it all began. Then I get sent home for a week, maybe three if I’m lucky, before getting shipped out again.

And two weeks after I get to the new assignment, I find out that last hell-hole I was in has broken out in the same disease I spent six weeks fighting because the local government couldn’t or wouldn’t follow our medical and sanitation recommendations

It wears on a man a bit.

Occasionally something pops up on the radar because of the movements of people who, shall we say, are engaging in non-sanctioned military activity. That gets a little dicey. Trying to get a blood sample from a seventeen-year old armed with a AK-47 and an overwhelming desires to get to Allah without gunfire can be a little nerve wracking.

Even less often, you find someone at the source that knows what they are doing. This is rarer than Hollywood likes to make out. Most smart people realize that the disease that can kill their enemy can kill them too. But sometimes you run into a group of people that don’t care.

You think that a bio-terrorist uses the brightly coloured suspension fluids in those pretty silver canisters with some ingenious mechanism for spreading the virus over half a city.

Nope.

It only takes one person with the will to take out with him as many people he hates as he can.

And an injection.

Set that person down on the right side of the Rio Grande or the Florida coast. Let them find a job as a migrant worker while the disease incubates in their blood stream and presto. Instant outbreak.

It’s that easy.

The rest of my life I have a girlfriend. Someone I talk to, eat with, take to the movies, fuck. The usual stuff. I don’t know if it’s going anywhere. It started out great. It always does with all the romance, passion, wonder, and excitement. An auburn bombshell with the brains, spirit, and sex drive to match, Stephanie would welcome me home with a bottle of scotch and a delicious body covered in nothing but me. She beautiful, bright, creative, passionate, romantic, and when we started, just plain fun. She was everything a jaded forty-year old army doctor could have dreamed of. The woman I had been waiting for all this time, the one I had given up finding.

But the romance has worn off and the fighting has begun. She wants me to spend more time with her while I’m in town, try to milk every moment we can out of it since we never know when I’ll be up and gone again for months at a time. Makes sense, right? But when I am home, I’m really busy trying to catch up on the work that has been waiting for me just as she has, and when I’m not, I’m just dragged out. I want to rest, not go out to the latest restaurant and listen to her friends talk about stupid shit like who is screwing who or how much they hate their boss. Sometimes I don’t even feel like being social with her. She asks questions I’d rather not answer, brings up things I’d rather forget, about my work, my life. And believe me, all the bitching and whining hasn’t made me more eager. That is invariably the problem with passionate, or in other terms "crazy", women: They exist on this deep emotional level and they expect everyone else to swim down there too. All the time.

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